#1
Long post... Looking for some thoughtful answers.

Question: How long is too long a set for an original acoustic act trying to spread their music and build a following? Is the etiquette different between acoustic and full band?

Back Story: The other night I played an acoustic show put together by a local promoter. There were 3 acts on the bill including myself, a friend of mine and some dudes I'd never met before. We were all asked to play for 1 hour, but I told the promoter that I didn't want to play anymore than 30 min, and we agreed on that.

Now I averaged a show per month in a full band capacity for about 2-3 years (actually with the friend mentioned above) and never once did we play more than 30 min. I'm sure someone could say "that's because you guys sucked", but it seems to me that there is a certain limit to the amount of interest people are willing or able to provide. Like a roller coaster you are going to reach that peak where people are bobbing their heads and then wind up right back at the bottom again where they are bored waiting for you to get off stage. To me, unless you are a straight cover act that plateau is probably somewhere between 20-30 min in this digital age where people like their music on demand, don't like watching youtube videos over 3 minutes and don't want to leave their house to see some good local music.

To that effect, and even though both of the remaining 2 acts relied a little more heavily on covers, I still found myself getting bored about halfway through. I found that at about 40-45 min I was wishing they would stop playing and by the time an hour rolled along I was fiddling on my phone and really not paying attention. I am the type who believes that you NEED to stick around until the end of the night to be polite to the other bands, but I honestly left at about 40 min into the final act.

Somewhere during the night the promoter came to me and said "Wow man your set was great. I want to put you on some more shows but you need more material". Being the only act out of the 3 that not only pulled folks over from other areas of the bar, but also kept them there until the end of my set, I was frustrated with that response.
Last edited by cramerizking at Jan 17, 2012,
#2
always leave them wanting more.
it is that simple IMO.
I like to play about a 40 min set with my whole band-that gets through our originals and covers. and we get to leave on a high note.
as for acoustic, 20-30 min should be enough IMO.
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#4
Quote by cramerizking


Somewhere during the night the promoter came to me and said "Wow man your set was great. I want to put you on some more shows but you need more material". Being the only act out of the 3 that not only pulled folks over from other areas of the bar, but also kept them there until the end of my set, I was frustrated with that response.


Why is that a frustrating response? That's an awesome response! That's the reaction you always want to have.

"You were great. I would love more."

If the music is good, 60 minutes isn't too long, but I would grow you set slowly and organically. If you have a kick-ass 30 minute set, go ahead and try to stretch it to 40 if you can add two more songs that are just as good as the stuff you have. Once you've got a kick-ass 40-minute set, go ahead and stretch it to 50.

I applaud your approach of not grabbing every second of stage time you can, being focused on quality rather than quantity. That's wise. The flip side is that a booker wants somebody playing on his stage. He's getting people to pay a cover and wants them listening and drinking, and his job is harder if you don't have enough music.

So recognize that your goal is to come up with a longer set without sacrificing quality. You can even tell him this, "Thanks. I'm working on more material, but would rather have a show that's awesome and short than drags, so I'll do longer sets as I get more material."

In the context of an "acoustic night" the problem isn't really that people will get bored of listening to one guy sing. The problem is almost certainly that the material isn't good enough. So keep your approach of not performing songs that you don't believe in ... but work so that you can give them what they want.

(Also, bear in minds that 45 minutes is a really standard set length - basically, you book someone to start every hour and that gives you 15 minutes to do a set changeover. You really should have a 45 minute set. Again, don't rush it if the material isn't there - but do make a point of getting the material you need to get there).
#5
Well you've been told to play an hour, and you refused, so they'll find someone who can play an hour.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#6
Quote by P.B.
always leave them wanting more.
it is that simple IMO.
I like to play about a 40 min set with my whole band-that gets through our originals and covers. and we get to leave on a high note.
as for acoustic, 20-30 min should be enough IMO.

This is kind of my thought exactly. I feel like it's better to under-stay as opposed to overstay my welcome.

Quote by HotspurJr
Why is that a frustrating response? That's an awesome response! That's the reaction you always want to have.

"You were great. I would love more."

If the music is good, 60 minutes isn't too long, but I would grow you set slowly and organically. If you have a kick-ass 30 minute set, go ahead and try to stretch it to 40 if you can add two more songs that are just as good as the stuff you have. Once you've got a kick-ass 40-minute set, go ahead and stretch it to 50.

I applaud your approach of not grabbing every second of stage time you can, being focused on quality rather than quantity. That's wise. The flip side is that a booker wants somebody playing on his stage. He's getting people to pay a cover and wants them listening and drinking, and his job is harder if you don't have enough music.

So recognize that your goal is to come up with a longer set without sacrificing quality. You can even tell him this, "Thanks. I'm working on more material, but would rather have a show that's awesome and short than drags, so I'll do longer sets as I get more material."

In the context of an "acoustic night" the problem isn't really that people will get bored of listening to one guy sing. The problem is almost certainly that the material isn't good enough. So keep your approach of not performing songs that you don't believe in ... but work so that you can give them what they want.

(Also, bear in minds that 45 minutes is a really standard set length - basically, you book someone to start every hour and that gives you 15 minutes to do a set changeover. You really should have a 45 minute set. Again, don't rush it if the material isn't there - but do make a point of getting the material you need to get there).

Yes it is an awesome response. I guess it's just frustrating in the sense that as you said, I am trying to do quality instead of quantity. However, I have also been to more than a few shows to scout/spectate and it seems like a lot of guys unknowingly overstay their welcome on stage (being it boring material, good material/crappy personality, or just being out there too damn long), and I don't want to be one of those folks. As P.B. said, I want to leave them asking for more... and between watching crowds over the years and my own tendencies as a spectator it seems like the line between "more please" and "go away" is paper thin.

In the end I am just trying to market myself as best as possible.

I imagine it like this: Play a great short set (30-ish min) and leave a few people thinking "wow that was pretty good. I'd like to see him again". I would think this makes them more likely to talk to me, find me on facebook, and actually come see another show (I don't have anything recorded at this point).

On the other side, I play a few songs too long and they think "I like his music but I've had enough of him tonight", which in my mind immediately creates a smaller sense of urgency to keep in touch with me or see me again.

Quote by Myshadow46_2
The set is too long if you go over your allocated time.

So if I am allocated 9 hours, as long as I don't go over 9 hours then my set is not too long? I'm asking more so regarding fan entertainment level. As much as some folks might like to think they are the next big thing where they could bang on a pot for 3 hours and entertain a crowd, that is often not the case.

Quote by AlanHB
Well you've been told to play an hour, and you refused, so they'll find someone who can play an hour.

Asked not told... There is a difference. And this was established before I agreed to do the show. I have no problem with them finding someone else if that needs to be the case... In fact, I would encourage it.

But that's not really what I'm asking.
#7
Quote by cramerizking
Asked not told... There is a difference. And this was established before I agreed to do the show. I have no problem with them finding someone else if that needs to be the case... In fact, I would encourage it.

But that's not really what I'm asking.


Are you sure that's not what you're asking? Aren't you just looking for someone to agree with you? Unfortunately, I'm not that person.

I mean, sure keep the attention of the crowd....leave them wanting more. Why not just play one song dude? That would be the ultimate smash in the "wanting more" face wouldn't it.

But then again you have to wonder exactly why bars/venues get live music. I mean, they could just stick a CD on and that could be it. Hey they could just play one track from the CD and leave the audience wanting more from that CD right?

The reason venues and bars get live music is because they want the people to stay longer, enjoy the music and spend money on food and alcohol. From this standpoint, would you rather an audience who stays 30 minutes, or one that stays for 4 hours? Even if you argue, "well those guys leave after an hour anyway", other people come in the door.

So if you get "asked" to play for longer, do it dude! You're not the one in control here, you're really there to bring in some cash for the venue. If you're basically telling them straight out "I'm going to do less than what you want", yes, you're already encouraging them to ask someone else.

Edit: And if by chance you want to respond to this with some sort of "keep artistic integrity/effect" answer, I'll simply say that's best kept for home.

And also, 30 mins? I'd feel pretty ripped off if I saw my favourite band and they only played for 30 mins. Standard set time is 45 mins, and can go up to 1hr 30mins sometimes (especially on a multi-band bill where one band pulls out).
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#8
Quote by AlanHB
Are you sure that's not what you're asking? Aren't you just looking for someone to agree with you? Unfortunately, I'm not that person.

I mean, sure keep the attention of the crowd....leave them wanting more. Why not just play one song dude? That would be the ultimate smash in the "wanting more" face wouldn't it.

But then again you have to wonder exactly why bars/venues get live music. I mean, they could just stick a CD on and that could be it. Hey they could just play one track from the CD and leave the audience wanting more from that CD right?

The reason venues and bars get live music is because they want the people to stay longer, enjoy the music and spend money on food and alcohol. From this standpoint, would you rather an audience who stays 30 minutes, or one that stays for 4 hours? Even if you argue, "well those guys leave after an hour anyway", other people come in the door.

So if you get "asked" to play for longer, do it dude! You're not the one in control here, you're really there to bring in some cash for the venue. If you're basically telling them straight out "I'm going to do less than what you want", yes, you're already encouraging them to ask someone else.

Edit: And if by chance you want to respond to this with some sort of "keep artistic integrity/effect" answer, I'll simply say that's best kept for home.

And also, 30 mins? I'd feel pretty ripped off if I saw my favourite band and they only played for 30 mins. Standard set time is 45 mins, and can go up to 1hr 30mins sometimes (especially on a multi-band bill where one band pulls out).


No, I am legitimately looking for feedback and/or a discussion. I asked a question out of serious curiosity as to what other folks would think and merely explained the back story to my asking. I'm not trying to paint the promoter as a dick. In fact, he is a nice guy, and I imagine I probably will do something with him again in the future.

That said, I can understand folks being disappointed about a 30 min set from their favorite band, but just like countless other acts just starting out, I am no one's favorite band. One of the major points I find when researching about building a following is not to overexpose yourself (meaning play too many shows), but I've got to imagine this plays into set length as well (whether it be 30 min, 45 min, 1 hour, 9 days, and so on).

As a side note, there are a bunch of local open mic nights I plan on hitting up in the near future before looking for another straight up gig. Most of these places give you on average 15-20 min to get your stuff out there, and I feel like these are probably better suited for someone up-and-coming until I do have some sort of following or confidence enough that someone cares to watch me for 45 min.

Maybe I am wrong. It certainly seems like I'm thinking the wrong way from most of the responses here. But that is why I asked the question(s).
Last edited by cramerizking at Jan 18, 2012,